Belfast Telegraph

NI21 councillor Johnny McCarthy 'left in dark' on Basil McCrea claims

By Cate McCurry

NI21's only elected council candidate has revealed he has been left in the dark over allegations concerning Basil McCrea which have thrown the party into disarray.

Johnny McCarthy squeezed through the election count to secure his spot on the new Lisburn and Castlereagh super council.

However, the 24-year-old admitted he has not spoken with his party leader or deputy John McCallister about his election or the events of last week. Mr McCrea strenuously denies any allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Mr McCarthy said all he knew was what he had gleaned "through the media".

Despite his unexpected success story, he also revealed he has only received voicemail messages from the pair offering their congratulations for his election.

Mr McCrea also posted a picture of himself and Mr McCarthy on polling day with the message "congratulations".

A crisis meeting has now been called to discuss the recent controversy which emerged just ahead of the poll.

However, NI21's only councillor went on to defend the party leader over the sexual misconduct claims stating he was "innocent until proven guilty".

"We need to get together and decide what is best for the party," he added.

"He (Basil) needs to sort out what is going – but he is innocent until proven guilty and I wish him all the best.

"What's going on between him and John personally is not what our party is about. There will be a meeting planned where big decisions will be made with the whole party, including its members.

"We have learned about everything through the media and we don't know any more information about it. We need to hear what's going on from the former executive so we can get more information and make a better judgment and let the members decide what will happen next.

"That could result in Basil having to step aside and a leader appointed in the interim.

"We need to organise how information is passed down through the party and not to find out about things through the media.

"After my election I got voicemail messages from John and Basil congratulating me."

Mr McCrea has denied the sex allegations claiming he has been 'slaughtered' by rivals.

It was revealed yesterday that up to 11 people who have worked for or were formerly associated with NI21 have made allegations against the 54-year-old concerning incidents of inappropriate sexual behaviour, inappropriate comments and touching, emotional blackmail, and bullying.

A former party worker, 23-year-old Ashleigh Murray alleged that an incident of sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace happened in April of last year.

Mr McCrea has been refusing to speak to Mr McCallister after he called for him to step down as leader while the allegations are being investigated.

Mr McCarthy played down the impact of the controversy and said NI21's low vote could not be fully blamed on last week's events.

He added: "It would be easy for us to hide behind these events and blame it all on that.

"There are things we have to learn from this. We are a young party and it's our first time at the polls. We worked hard and I do worry it would be too easy to hide behind this.

"The message behind the party hasn't changed and we stand united behind that belief.

"We all agree with the message of NI21 and we are not going away.

"Our polling results shows there's a lot of people out there who want to hear our message and agree with it."

Even before the the fledgling movement, which had promised a new brand of politics, was hit by the storm surrounding its Lagan Valley MLA, NI21 was already facing serious problems.

Just two days before the elections, the party executive voted to drop its 'unionist' designation in the Assembly in favour of the more neutral 'other'. This prompted major dissensionin the party's ranks, with some candidates apparently in the dark in the eleventh hour decision.

Deputy NI21 leader Mr McCallister claimed that the "crazy" move was an attempt to thwart a report he had ordered into the rumours around Mr McCrea – a claim the party leader dismissed.

The party later edged towards outright implosion as the polls closed on Thursday night after its European Parliament candidate, Tina McKenzie, dramatically resigned from the executive.

Ms McKenzie, who only received 256 votes in her bid to enter Belfast City Council, later said she would quit frontline politics.

STORY SO FAR

NI21 was set up last June by Basil McCrea and John McCallister, two former UUP MLAs. It promised non-sectarian pro-Union politics. But it descended into chaos after its executive proposed dropping its unionist designation at Stormont. Then a probe into claims of inappropriate sexual activity by Mr MCCrea involving female party workers also emerged. Ssdfdfsdf jsdfh jklh sdfklhsdfjhs dflksh dlfkh sdlkfh sdklfh sdk

Further Reading

NI21 candidates badly let down in sad debacle 

NI21 fails to dent the polls as party facing implosion  

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